Tuesday, July 29, 2008

... and now

Well, completed my write up of our trip down the Iberian Peninsular, that's almost Wellingtonesque.

What next? What windmills to tilt at now, Sanchez? It's a bit too early to hibernate for the winter.

Harvey starts training school next week, our crossbred Jack Shit ( he's supposed to be a JackRussell/ Shih-Tsu cross), excuse the French.

Harvey and me

That's it, I'll make Harvey's schooling my next windmill.

Two to Gibraltar Part 10

Monday, 16 June 2008
Orleans – Calais Coquelles
Starting Mileage: 10173
Daily Total: 270
Finishing Mileage: 10443

To avoid the traffic in Paris we headed for Evreux to skirt round the west side. On the road to Calais met lots of English sports cars and anoraks that had been to Le Mans. Pity some of them had to imitate the track performances and speeds. They were soon roped in by the French gendarmes operating radar cameras and with motorbike chasers. Pulling into an “aire” we saw quite a few booked and some taken off the autoroute completely. On the spot fines and could there have been confiscation?

The Last Peage, Pas de Calais

The weather had been fine with one short shower but the morning had been extremely misty.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Calais Coquelles/Folkestone - Macclesfield
Starting Mileage: 10443
Daily Total: 261
Finishing Mileage: 10704

Left Calais Coquelles and after a short ride boarded the Eurotunnel train at 07.50. A quick train journey and we arrived at Folkestone at 07.25. (Times are local). A thirty-five minute journey and we arrived twenty-five minutes before we started.

I said farewell to John at Maidstone Services and followed the M25 north onto the M1. The traffic was still bad between Junction 6 to Junction 10. There were no problems with fuel on the motorway though there was no diesel or unleaded premium at the services on the A50, Kegworth side.

Arrived home, in Macclesfield, at 13.30. The weather had been fair all the way.


Starting Mileage: 6948
Total: 3756
Finishing Mileage: 10704

Average Daily Mileage: 235

15 Days Riding;
1 Day Trip to Gibraltar;
2 Rest Days.

Pre-ride Services
We both had our bikes serviced any necessary consumables replaced prior to the ride.

Extra Kit
Both John and I used Air Hawk cushions on the seat of our bikes. In the past we had both suffered from the ‘numb bum’ syndrome after about two hundred miles riding. Fifteen days riding and neither of us suffered. Fully recommended.

Riding Gear
We wore full riding gear through out our journey. Through three days wet weather in France, a couple of wet days in Spain, low temperatures riding through the Pyrenees and the Massif Central and of course the hot days. We needed the full gear. No way would flip-flops, shorts and a flapping beach shirt have been comfortable or practical or safe. Prior to the trip we had wondered about having two sets of gear for the cool northern and the hot southern elements, eventually decided on our normal protective gear.

Spares & Tools
We didn’t take any extra spares for our bikes. We added Gerber Multi Tools and Swiss Army knives to the standard Burgman tool kits. We had also prepared and carried lists of Suzuki dealers and garages throughout France and Spain. There are hundreds of them and, as John found out, the little village workshops all over the place.

Though there were fuel protests and some shortages in England, France and Spain we found that obtaining fuel was not too difficult. Though we were apprehensive during the ride as soon as we reached half tank we refuelled when possible.

Pre-Booked Accommodation
Both John and I appreciated having reserved accommodation. We have both experienced riding all day then having to search for the night’s accommodation and a meal, tired and maybe frustrated as the search sometimes stretched on and on.

We tried to start our ride, each day, as early as possible and aim to complete 250 miles approximately thus allowing us to finish about two or three o’clock.

Having a target mileage, depending on our riding stamina, sets the approximate location of our accommodation. Having reserved the accommodation we could then book in, take a shower and rest till evening, refreshed for the evening meal. This set us up for the next day’s ride.

Thoroughly enjoyable trip for two septuagenarians. Next year, who knows?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Two to Gibraltar Part 9

Saturday, 14 June 2008
Beziers – Clermont Ferrand
Starting Mileage: 9764
Daily Total: 218
Finishing Mileage: 9982

Left Beziers at 0745 arriving at Clermont Ferrand at 1400. Stopped off at a viewing point on the outskirts of Millau to photograph the famous Millau Viaduct.

Views of Millau



Weather – blue skies all day but very cold riding over the Massif Central, highest riding point 1100 metres. (3610 feet)

In the afternoon John took his scooter to a local shop. Rear wheel brake pads – one completely stripped, one extensively worn. Pleasant, knowledgeable young man replaced the pads and bled john’s brake system. €43 – not bad for immediate service on a Saturday afternoon.

Had dinner at a Chinese restaurant – Bamboo Garden, not very good food but the staff were very pleasant.

Sunday, 15 June 2008
Clermont Ferrand - Orleans
Starting Mileage: 9982
Daily Total: 191
Finishing Mileage: 10173

Father’s Day. On the road for 07.45am. Weather overcast and we soon ran into rain that continued all the way to Orleans. Arrived Etap Hotel at 12.15 to find the reception closed until 17.00 pm. The Etap “Checking In” machine was hors de service (out of service). Fortunately the rain had stopped and the sun came out to play! We sat on a bench outside Etap until 16.30 when the manager arrived. In no uncertain terms we let him know about the “machine” and he turned into the only Etap employee who didn’t understand one of English!! I had a go in French but it lost something in the translation. He disappeared into the hotel leaving us on the doorstep. He fiddled with something in his office and reappeared in the foyer to show us he had switched on the “machine” and we could now register. After several attempts to register, with his help mind you, we gave up. As it was only a few minutes to opening time, 17.00, we asked if we could enter the hotel and register at the desk. Definitely “Non, non!” So back to waiting on the outside bench.

Eventually he opened the hotel. As he could see we were not best pleased with him he decided a bit of reconciliation was required so he offered us free breakfast. Next morning I ignored the manager, curtly giving my room number. John being a little less curt told me how the manager was apologetic over our four and half hour wait for our rooms. Me, I was still totally p***** off with him.
Pleased though that my four lads had texted me “Happy Father’s Day”.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Two to Gibraltar Part 8

Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Alicante - Barcelona
Starting Mileage: 9218
Daily Total: 328
Finishing Mileage: 9546

Today is probably our longest riding day of our journey. Air Hawk really comes into its own over these distances. Good sunny day, only one heavy shower. Probably our most expensive day for motorway tolls/peage.

On arrival very disappointed that no secure parking on hotel site for Etap Hotel patrons. Site consists of Etap Hotel, Ibis Hotel and parking for Ibis patrons only. We parked our bikes in an unused corner of the car park, which was too small for a car.

Thursday, 12 June 2008
Barcelona - Beziers
Starting Mileage: 9546
Daily Total: 212
Finishing Mileage: 9758

Started 07.35 a.m. Through Barcelona the traffic was heaving, how do people commute like this every day? Initially we intended to avoid the motorways but due to many new, local roads not on the map we soon returned to them. We arrived at the border town of Le Perthus at 12.00 pm. The place was crowded – lunchtime for many tourists.

Continuing on the A9 the wind was tremendous and slowed us down to 40 mph on full throttle. Windsocks were flying horizontally. So difficult to ride and maintain forward momentum. I removed the laminar lip from my screen, seemed to help. Arrived at Beziers at 15.00 pm. Initially given a room on 3rd floor and no lift. After one trip upstairs the manager arranged for a ground floor room for me. The husband and wife managers arranged for a pizza take away for us. We were too shattered to travel out for a meal.

Etap Hotel, Beziers, France

Friday, 13 June 2008
Beziers (Rest Day)
Starting Mileage: 9758
Daily Total: 6
Finishing Mileage: 9764

Running short of cash we rode around and found an Auchan supermarket with a cash dispenser. Bought lunch and dinner. Prawn noodles for lunch, chicken curry with rice cantonaise (fried rice) and some nectarines and apples, for dinner. A spot of dhobi, then another day of rest – feet up and Euro 2008 on the TV.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lost or Stolen

The MoD (Ministry of Defence) has lost 658 laptop computers, say £1,000 each works out at £658,000.

They have also lost 121 memory sticks, say £20 each works out at £2,420.

A mere £660,420!!

Back in 1958, in the army, I lost "towels, green, one", value old money five shillings, today's shekels - twenty five pence. For this the quartermaster sergeant intended recover the value of the towel from my pay, have me serve 28 days at Shepton Mallet (Army nick for really bad boys) and then have me castrated.

So are we to see 779 impoverished, emasculated MoD civil servants crowding our glass house?

No bloody way, the loss will be deducted from the budget of our poor lads serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Two to Gibraltar Part 7

Monday, 09 June 2008
Jerez de la Frontera - Granada
Starting Mileage: 8809
Daily Total: 172
Finishing Mileage: 8981

Today we made the return journey to Granada along great riding roads with the only problem of riding east into the early morning sun. A fairly easy day’s riding and we arrived back at Granada at 12.30 pm.

In the afternoon I had a little stroll along Carretera de Armilla. Mainly a shopping and industrial area. The street seemed extremely busy at all times.

Carretera de Armilla

I saw a scooterist riding along the busy street, helmet fliptop open, a cigarette in his mouth and in his left hand – a lighter. Frantically he tried to light his cigarette, with every flick of the lighter wheel the turbulence extinguished the flame. So comical, he didn’t realise he had no chance!

Small world – in the Ibis restaurant we met a couple from Nantwich, Cheshire. The husband worked for the local council and knew and worked on my street regularly. With more Euro 2008 football we dined on chuletta de cerdon (pork) and I tried the chocolatissimo for afters, very sweet and rich.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Granada - Alicante
Starting Mileage: 8981
Daily Total: 237
Finishing Mileage: 9218

A day of apprehension – the start of the HGV drivers petrol protests in Spain. The petrol station at the rear of the hotel was closed. We should have refuelled the previous evening. So with only half tanks of petrol we started out for Alicante. The plan was to use half of our remaining petrol then search for an overnight stop or open station. However only a couple of miles down the road we found an open service station complete with a nominal picket line, demonstrating rather than blocking access. After refuelling we decided to follow the motorways – more chance of petrol.

Aire Velez Rubio A92 N

Along the A7 the police had closed the motorway and for a few miles we followed a diversion through a little town – Albetta, this really confused Satnav Sally until we were diverted back onto the motorway. A car had been stopped in the middle of the motorway - a breakdown, run out of petrol, accident? It remained a mystery!

Though heavy rain had been forecast the weather we enjoyed wall to wall sunshine.

We arrived at Etap Hotel, Alicante at 14.30 pm. What a beautiful view of the Mediterranean, blue/green sea, light sands and tropical plants, with the bay sweeping around to Alicante town – all seen from our hotel.

View from Etap Hotel, Alicante

Across the bay to Alicante

In the evening John rode to the local service station to buy some engine oil. We managed to codge up a funnel but on opening the oil container it had a built in pouring tube so the codge up was redundant. My scooter had used less oil than John’s but needed a little oil. Must remember to carry a small funnel, as it is most awkward to pour the oil.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Another Cunning Plan Unveiled

“Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said more than 110,000 'problem families' will be targeted as part of government's action plan.

As many as 20,000 families could be evicted from their homes if they fail to control their children, Mr Brown said.”

So where does ‘Flash’ Gordon intend re-locating these 20,000 uncontrollable families?

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told the BBC: "We can find new ways of helping to turn around those young people who are going off the rails."

Take a lesson from the animal world and see how successful the animal parents are at handling their young, they never have to resort to 'new ways', Jaqui!

Cash Cameras

So now the bickering starts!

"Swindon Borough Council, '... could stop paying for speed cameras because it says they might not be the best way to make roads safer.'

Tory-run Swindon Borough Council currently spends about £400,000 to fund speed cameras in the town. Its leader, Roderick Bluh, said cash from fines goes to central government and there could be better ways to cut the number of accidents on roads.

It is thought to be the first time a council has challenged the government on the issue of speed camera funding."

Are Swindon BC complaining because they now have to surrender "revenue/fines" to central government or are they really concerned that speed cameras are not as effective as first claimed?

Will all councils follow Swindon or will 'Flash' Gordon order "Yes" Darling to issue a rebate/bribe to sweeten Swindon?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Two to Gibraltar Part 6

Sunday, 08 June 2008
Jerez de la Frontera – Gibraltar (Return)
Starting Mileage: 8662
Daily Total: 147
Finishing Mileage: 8809

For me today was to be the high point of our trip. My return to Gibraltar (this time landside) after fifty years.

Brilliant weather and good riding roads, mainly the A-381, through the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales.

I haven't aged as well as The Rock

I have crossed many level crossings for trains but this was the first time I have made a crossing of a main aircraft runway. In fact we had to wait at crossing gates while a passenger aircraft made its takeoff. Then into the town centre of Gibraltar. I have never seen so many scooters of all shapes and sizes ridden by oversized matrons to skinny teenagers. They were buzzing around every road, avenue and cranny. Every street and car park had scooter parking bays. (Hardly saw a motorcycle). Must be the scooter capital of the world.

Next to the cablecar car park is a small snack bar, the “Barbary Ape”. Here John and I enjoyed our first bacon sarnie since leaving UK. Next stop the cable car to the top of the Rock. A trip on the cable car costs £8 or €13.80, booking is made at a retired cablecar. After a jocular meeting with an ex-RAF, Dave Beswick, didn’t know who could chat most Dave or John, especially as they had had parallel RAF careers but had never met. Dave had one of those cushy ex-serviceman’s jobs after retirement, a cablecar guide/conductor retired to sunny Gibraltar. The cable car ascended steeply and slowly, eight minutes to the cloudy summit. Unfortunately due to the cloud we were unable to see Africa but we were greeted by one of the famous Barbary Apes swinging on the cablecar.

A Barbary Welco

Climbing to the viewing deck we were met by fabulous views over Gibraltar and cool, cool air.

Further confrontations with more Barbary Apes led to photo sessions, there does not seem to be many apes left – are the British to lose Gibraltar? “Once the apes leave, the British will leave the Rock.”

Mother and baby

I was happy I had achieved a goal – a trip to Gibraltar after first seeing it fifty years ago!

After our descent, a lot quicker than the ascent, a quick farewell to Dave Beswick and crew, we made our way back to Spain. We rode straight through the plane crossing this time. Our return journey followed the same route, along the same good riding roads. I did notice lots of signs advertising “Tarifa to Tangiers Ferry Tickets”, errm, if we had had more time and did we need a visa, maybe next time.

Along the road back to Jerez we noticed specialised farms/ranchos, with ring shaped fields, off the main roads, not sure but I thought these were farms/ranchos for training bulls for Spain’s popular pastime of bullfighting.

By the road side

We spent our evening watching Euro 2008 with our meal of pork steaks with the standard chips and salad followed by nougat ice cream with raspberry coulis. Another good meal from the Ibis hotel set menu.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Two to Gibraltar Part 5

Saturday, 07 June 2008
Granada – Jerez de la Frontera
Starting Mileage: 8484
Daily Total: 178
Finishing Mileage: 8662

We made good progress on our trip to Jerez, arriving at 12.30 pm. Weather had been fine all the way with some excellent countryside views especially at Olvera.

A little panorama of Olvera.
Is this where “Richard Sharpe and Wellington” fought their battles for TV? Our satnavs played up today. Several times we were riding in fields when in fact we were riding on newly constructed highways. Carrying on riding the satnavs eventually returned to “route” as we hit the older roads again.

Used my throttle grip today in an attempt to ease the pain I felt in my thumbs.
On arrival had a “Spanish omelette” – served cold and not like the UK version made with onions but with a main filling of potatoes. Having a Spanish in-law I had previous experience of this style. In the evening we enjoyed meatballs with chips and salad followed by apple tart and ice cream. Totally enjoyable.

Knife Crime 2

According to the British Crime Survey (BCS), overall violent crime has decreased by 41% since a peak in 1995.

Knives are used in about 8% of violent incidents, according to the BCS, a level that has largely remained the same during the past decade.

But the BCS figures do not include under-16s.

Criminologist Kevin Stenson, from Middlesex University's Crime and Conflict Research Centre, said the politicians needed to do more to address the problems of those aged under 16 and added: "They are the people who fear being attacked with knives, they carry them because they are scared and for respect. It is about macho status."

So our gallant leader, “Flash” Gordon, declares all knife carriers over 16 should be prosecuted and not just cautioned.

No pun intended, but is he missing the point?


Whether sanctions work is a moot point. However it is strange to note that South Africa voted with Russia and China against sanctions against Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe's big boy's toy.

It was noticeable that Nelson Mandela and Tutu's representations against Mugabe's regime's recent actions were quite weak, in fact Mandela didn't say anything until it helped sell his concert.

Russia and China have possible economical interests in Zimbabwe but South Africa what is their interest?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Peanut Thingymajigs

Armed with a recipe, kindly given to me by Dan & Pam, friends from Chapel en-le-Frith, I trod boldly into Viv's (SWMBO) kitchen and baked tra-lah:

Two to Gibraltar Part 4

Thursday, 05 June 2008
Arrigorriaga/Bilbao - Madrid
Starting Mileage: 7949
Daily Total: 258
Finishing Mileage: 8207

Started with a little detour. New roads did not match our satnavs. John took the lead and led us through Parque Natural del Area del Gorbea. A beautiful area, packed with tourists and tourist coaches tail gaiting us until we hit the open roads again. So back on to the A-68, A-1 and finally the N-1 to Madrid.

Today we had wall to wall rain all the way.

At a pit stop I bought a bag. This would contain all my clothing and be kept under the seat during the day while riding. At destination I can remove bag to take to hotel and then keep my helmet and gloves beneath the seat. A tip from John.

Somehow during the ride I managed to lose my waterproof leggings should have worn but they are a bit of a faff to put on in the rain. The chrome decorative cover and three screws of exhaust muffler managed to work loose and dropped along the way. Worst things happen at sea though.

We arrived at Madrid and has my son had told me the drivers are crazy here. No prisoners and pedestrian crossings in the most unexpected places. After a couple of tours around the streets we managed to find the entrance to the Etap Hotel. Fortunately the hotel had secure parking.

No this really is Madrid, not Liverpool!!!

Next door to our hotel is an Ibis Hotel, though located on the next street. No I’m not babbling just the Madrid layout. So off we trotted for evening repast. The daily menu was the worst we to come across during the entire trip. Me - Ham with green beans, ok who stole the ham? John – had the menu pasta. Spaghetti with some kind of white sauce, allegedly asparagus!! Don’t know if the chef had a day off but it was terrible!

No cereals at breakfast!!

Friday, 06 June 2008
Madrid - Granada
Starting Mileage: 8207
Daily Total: 277
Finishing Mileage: 8484

Our first Sunny day! Reached Cordoba and I felt the heat really oppressive. I changed to a lighter jacket with open collar and cuffs to attract as much ventilation as possible.
An Ibu - Profen helped.

Passing through La Mancha, there are traditional windmills everywhere, on the roadside, on the skyline all in tribute to the fictional hero Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha and his servant Sancho Panza created by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. There are also many modern day versions of the windmill, generating electricity, for the modern day Don Quixotes.

Dinner at local Ibis hotel was a hundred percent improvement on the previous night. Gazpacho soup, not unlike tomato juice, braised veal with potatoes in their skins.

Awoke at 2 am pain in both thumbs and in my side (leftovers from tumble). Good old Ibu Profen!
In the Etap, Granada no glasses in the bathroom, no waste bin and the TV control box did not work. All were soon rectified by reception. Again, no cereals with breakfast.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stranger than.....

Now that's weird. On my way to the garage for a service. Helmeted, booted up, astride my bike, turn on the ignition and..................... CLICK!

Battery dead!

Four thousand miles round Europe - no problems. The next trip - a one mile ride to the garage and the bike's dead as a dodo!

.... and another thing

Why do policeman arresting/detaining suspects/perpetrators have to keep addressing them as "..., mate."?

Disciplining Children

Is it true?

Are midwives to stop slapping the backsides of new born babies?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Two to Gibraltar Part 3

Tuesday, 03 June 2008
Angouleme – Arrigorriaga/Bilbao
Starting Mileage: 7660
Daily Total: 289
Finishing Mileage: 7949

Again we set off in mainly overcast skies accompanied by the now usual heavy showers. We have yet to experience a dry riding day, even on our first day in Spain. My satnav did not like the crossover at the border. I had to change map software from France to Spain. With my setting on Spain the satnav thought I was still in France. Slowly it showed the correct map and data. During this period, John took over point riding but for some reason his satnav (Navman) decided to leave the motorway and take us down a scenic route. Thirty miles in a 30 mph zone. During a pit stop John managed to lay down his bike as he changed petrol pumps. John was unhurt but his bike suffered the usual scratches. Taking over on point I soon had us back on the A8 motorway and making good progress. We soon arrived at our destination – Arrigorriaga, south of Bilbao. The problem was accessing the estate containing the Etap Hotel. John rode up to a peage station to ask for directions, I tried a sharp U-turn, wheel skidded on the body of a dead hedgehog and over I went. A Spanish motorist stopped and helped me free my leg, which had been trapped underneath the bike. A really decent type – made sure I was OK and helped John recover my bike to the roadside. My elbow protector had dug into my ribs – painful. My leg was fine though. Gingerly I followed John to our hotel. Installed in our hotel and after a long, hot, hot shower followed by Ibuprofen I felt a lot better.

With directions from the Etap reception we walked across the bridge to Arrigorriaga. We called in a bar for a drink and more information on eating-places. After a while John suggested we buy something in and have a cheap night. From a small mini-market John bought Laughing Cow style cheese, bread and an apple, I bought some Danish Blue, crackers and an apple. So we picnicked in our bedrooms.


At this point I should mention that unlike UK B&Bs, Etap’s do not have “brew kits” in the rooms though they do have machines in reception that sell hot drinks and snacks. I took along a mini kettle (about £10 on t’internet), tea bags and
powder milk. With a continental plug adapter I managed to brew in my room.

Wednesday, 04 June 2008
Arrigorriaga/Bilbao (Rest Day)
Starting Mileage: 0
Daily Total: 0
Finishing Mileage: 0

Today was our first rest day (no riding). After breakfast managed to ‘do’ some laundry. I had also bought (off the t’internet again) an interior clothesline with built in pegs and a hook either end of the line, so drying was no problem. Clean socks, trolleys and t-shirts again!!

Not riding today – weather brilliant sunshine, sod’s law!!

We met Andy & Lyn, from Birkenhead, who were waiting for the ferry from Santander, on Thursday, and had ridden their Triumph up from Portugal through Northern Spain.

Rio Nervion, Arrigorriaga

In the afternoon we strolled to a bar next to the hotel for a few ‘scoops’.

We managed to find a Chinese restaurant, the Ron Du on Severo Ochoa 8, right at the far end of town. A very large restaurant and a very good meal.

Later met up with Andy & Lyn for a nightcap.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Two to Gibraltar Part 2

Saturday, 31 May 2008
Macclesfield - Folkestone/Calais Coquelles
Starting Mileage: 6948
Daily Total: 258
Finishing Mileage 7206

I started my journey from Macclesfield at 10:00. Along the A523 through Leek, passed Ashbourne, south of the Peak District National Park, A515 to the A50 and on to the M1 at Kegworth. My first pit stop was at Rothersthorpe South, Northampton. The weather was fine with sunny intervals. From Junction 10 to Junction 6A, I experienced long delays due to lane widening on the M1. With miles of filtering and some patience the obstacle was overcome. My second pit stop was at Maidstone Service Area. Arriving at Eurotunnel I was pleased with the simplicity of the self check-in. Punch in your reservation number and hey presto the machine issues a boarding card. From the M1 the weather had changed to overcast with the odd shower. I met John in the Eurotunnel car park. We boarded the train at 18:42 and arrived at 20:15 local time. We checked in to the Etap Hotel, Calais Coquelles, which has a secure car park.

After a quick wash/brush up, we walked over to the Cite d’Europe mall and found a small, welcoming Chinese restaurant. We chose the €7.30 menu and enjoyed a three course meal. Prawn dim sums; Imperial Chicken with fried rice and banana fritters to follow. All washed down with Tsingtao beer.

Sunday, 01 June 2008
Calais Coquelles - Chartres
Starting Mileage: 7206
Daily Total: 225
Finishing Mileage: 7431

Leaving Calais Coquelles early in the morning, the weather was overcast. It was not long before the rain arrived and we endured a tremendous downpour most of the way to Chartres. We travelled mainly on autoroutes to be sure of finding petrol stations open on a Sunday. Along the A16, A28 to Abbeville and on to Rouen. Followed the A13 then A154 to Incarville. Onto the N154 passing Evreux and Dreux, finally to Chartres.

We had stayed at Etap Hotel, Chartres last year, on our mini tour of Northern France. So we knew what to expect – decent accommodation and breakfast. We arrived early afternoon so we went to the adjacent Relais Total for a snack of croque monsieur and coffee. In the evening we returned to the Total station for an evening meal of steak hachure. If you like your meat red and tasteless then this is the meal for you, however I doubt if I’ll ever eat Steak Hachure again.

Monday, 02 June 2008
Chartres - Angouleme
Starting Mileage: 7431
Daily Total: 229
Finishing Mileage: 7660

After a pleasant stay at Etap Hotel, Chartres, we again started riding in overcast weather and it was not very long before we met very heavy showers. Today we spent most of the day on the N10, avoiding autoroutes and peage (Tolls).
John’s waterproofs were on, off and on - really heavy showers then dry periods in between. A pretty miserable ride.

Etap Hotel, Angouleme is in the middle of town and parking is secure and underground and cost us €2.30 each bike. A short walk around town and we found another Chinese restaurant in the Champ de Mars shopping mall – Mi-Am. Here the menu was a little more expensive €13.00. Main dish was fried crevettes (prawns), chicken curry for John.
As in England, France also deports illegal immigrants and earlier in the afternoon John had witnessed a demonstration, at the local police headquarters, against the deportation.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Women Bishops

Will women bishops upset the balance of power on the chess board?

Knife Crime

I see the government want hospitals to report the number of knife inflicted woundings so the government can judge the extent of knife crime in the country.

Why don't they turn on their TVs/Radios like I do?

Let the hospitals get on with the job of healing people!!!

What a Waste

"Stop wasting food, plan meals in advance and store food properly," so says our gallant leader.

Obviously Gordon hasn't learned that these flippant publicity headline seeking, remarks make him look like a second rate, second rater like George Dubyah and Tony B Liar.

Pensioners and low income earners have been doing this for years or hasn't he noticed?

I noticed he didn't include the farmers in his advice, the very people who maintain the high price of food by ploughing excess food back into the soil to maintain market prices.

So the rest follow good old Gordon's advice and there is a glut of food left rotting on the supermarket shelves. The supermarkets will have to throw away this food and recover the cost from whom? You've got it in one - US. So to make Gordon look Green and Clean we have to pay again.

Is this guy really re-electable? Maybe I should re-phrase that as he's never been elected in the first place.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Two to Gibraltar Part 1


John Hocking and I met on an organised tour (MSL Tours) to Rouen in 2004. In fact we shared the same B&B, (Bleriots, Dover) on the tour eve. Since we are of an age, John is now 75 and I am rapidly approaching 70, we were thrown together on that tour. We are both ex-servicemen, now classified by the government as Veterans. John is ex-RAF while I am an ex-Sapper. We have since participated together in Round Britain Rallies, 2004-08, mainly in Wales and Scotland plus a trip in 2007 to Northern France.

After our return from Northern France we were pontificating on what to do in 2008. Recalling my time in the army and a trip out to the Far East, in 1958, the troopship should have stopped off at Gibraltar but a late decision by the powers that be, the ship only stopped to collect fresh water. I then suggested to John how about a ride to Gibraltar. John replied go for it. With experience of many visits to France and in 2006 attended my son’s wedding in Spain (I can now even say “Dos caňos, por favor.”) I felt well qualified to plan the ride.

John and I both ride the same machine, Suzuki Burgman AN 400 K4 scooters. This does make the logistics a little easier, especially for pit stops etc. Shopping around in December enabled me to find good prices on the Eurotunnel and Etap chain of hotels; all bookings were made and confirmed on the Internet. As we were mainly staying one night at each stop the Etap standard of accommodation suited us - a bed, a TV and en suite. The Formulae One chain would probably have been cheaper but they are not en suite, which John and I have on our list of requirements. We probably could have managed sharing a room for the same price but being two grumpy old gits we both like our own privacy.

So now for the planning. Making most of the planning decisions I then discussed them with John and those who know John will realise he is a very agreeable type, so planning and organising was simplicity itself.

I decided to sleep the first and last night in Calais Coquelles. This would enable us to ride down to Folkestone, John from Ipswich and me from Macclesfield, take the evening train, thirty-five minutes and check into the hotel and start out fresh the next morning. I then spaced out the overnight stops with riding intervals of approximately 250 miles. The only occasion this was not possible was the 300+ mile stretch between Alicante and Barcelona. So bookings were made to Chartres, Angouleme, Bilbao (Arrigorriaga), Madrid and Granada. As I could not find suitable economical accommodation in Gibraltar or La Linea I decided that we would ride over to Jerez de la Frontera for two days and make a day trip down to Gibraltar. We retraced our route back to Granada then on to Alicante, Barcelona, Beziers, Clermont Ferrand, Orleans and finally back to Calais Coquelles. We had rest days at Bilbao and Beziers. In Jerez there are no Etap hotels so we booked into the Hotel Ibis, a sister chain of hotels under the Accors umbrella. A little more expensive but with a bar, a restaurant and definitely cheaper than the hotel prices in Gibraltar.

So there we were – all booked up in January – just had to be patient until June!!!

As the day of departure loomed into the near future, both John and I had our bikes serviced and given the once over for tyres and brake pads etc. Daily route maps were printed, hotels entered on our satnavs. Little bits of kit added – small electric kettle, washing line to use in the hotel bathroom, teabags, dried milk, cuppa soups – Etap hotels don’t have brew facilities unlike British B&Bs.

Slowly my foreign language skills are improving. “Deux café au lait, s’il vous plait,” and “Dos café con leche, por favor.” OK, OK, not up to UN standard but I’ll never die of thirst!

...that mangled little three letter word

Listening to Susanna Reid on BBC's Breakfast programme this morning she informed us all that,".......Roger Federer will be going for his sick Wimbledon title."

Blood pressure rising, hair curling at the back of my neck, I ask what right do the BBC have to change the pronunciation of a long used and friendly three letter word to a current faddish four letter word which sounds like vomit.

Will the attractive Susanna be having seck with her partner?

Will the kitchen Susannah mick the ingredients of her recipe?

Will Susanna fick a broken widget?

Will Susanna fack a document to her colleagues?

Will Susanna allow cocks in the university boat race?

Will send out Christmas bocks in December?

Does Susanna hunt fockses?

Oh Susanna what will it be?

Where does this recent fad come from?

Chairman, NSNSA (National Six Not Sick Association)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Modern Tennis by A Biker

Just watching the Williams sisters playing out the Ladies Final I reflect on the way tennis has changed over the years. I am not a fan of the modern power game and would love to see a return to the skilful stroke play of the past.

I don't see the point in recording the speed of some muscle man's/woman's serve; neither do I appreciate the grunting and groaning of the marital bed as they play their shots. What happened to the fashion sense? I don't object to coloured clothes but wearing a frilly skirt over cycling shorts, I ask you? Anybody remember 'Gorgeous' Gussie Moran? Proper frilly knickers as DI Gene Hunt would say!

As for the game I would ban the double handed back stroke; ban the second serve, most players seem to keep their second serve in play so why can they not apply to the first serve; think of the time this would save. 'Hawkeye' is a great computer trick but let's have more responsibility and decisions by the umpire and proper rants from the players.

As for the TV broadcasts why do we have fillers (interviews) with so called celebrities from the Royal Box between matches? Jeez, they are so predictable and boring. Bring back the potter's wheel!